2014 Mazda 6 Road Test Review
2014 Mazda 6 offers a sleek exterior, engaging dynamics and excellent fuel efficiency
Scores High: Comfortable ride quality, sporty handling, attractive exterior design, fuel efficient
Scores Low: Interior quality and features not up to class standards, only one available engine
Total Car Score Analysis
Like (nearly) every automaker over the last few years, Mazda appears to be on a roll. The automaker’s sales have increased for three years straight and are now hitting record levels. Much of Mazda’s success is courtesy of all-new models, along with the introduction of a series of fuel-efficient technologies known, collectively, as “SkyActiv.” The all-new 2014 Mazda 6 incorporates not only the full suite of Skyactiv technology but also an exterior shape inspired by the brand’s “Kodo” design language, which stands for “Soul of Motion.”
Featured on several recent Mazda concept vehicles, the Kodo design language is highly expressive, giving the 2014 Mazda 6 far more visual presence than the average midsize family sedan. This sleek body sits on an all-new platform and is powered by an all-new engine and transmission. Add it all up and you’ve got an attractive, sporty and fuel-efficient Mazda sedan that is already turning the heads of family sedan shoppers.
Mazda wants the new Mazda 6 to exude a sporty nature, and that goal begins with the sedan’s dramatic exterior shape. A large, upright grille is framed by aggressive hood contours sweeping over the front wheels. A complimentary bodyline sits above the rear wheel wells and wraps around the short trunk lid behind the “fastback” roof shape. There’s a lot going on, which could have resulted in a “busy” body shape if the design wasn’t so cohesive from front to back. In this case form also follows function, as the 2014 Mazda 6 has the lowest coefficient of drag in the midsize category (0.26 Cd).
With an exterior design that promises so much, the new Mazda 6 needs real-world performance to back up those eye-catching contours. It does, for the most part, with a responsive 2.5-liter, 4-cylinder engine making 184 horsepower and 185 pound-feet of torque. This engine will be the only one available in the Mazda 6 initially, though a 2.2-liter clean diesel engine will become available in the second half of this year.
The 2.5-liter features the full gambit of Skyactiv technology, including direct fuel injection, an all-new 6-speed automatic transmission, and even a lighter chassis with improved strength and crash protection, contribute to the Mazda 6’s class-leading fuel efficiency rating of 26 city mpg, 38 highway mpg and 30 combined mpg.
With such impressive fuel efficiency you might expect the Mazda 6 to be rather docile in terms of acceleration. It’s not, at least not under normal driving conditions. At lower speeds throttle response is excellent because of the engine’s flat torque curve and effective 6-speed automatic (it utilizes both a conventional torque converter and dual clutch technology). Driven at anything less than full throttle the car feels spritely and happy to oblige when it’s time to get going.
However, during full-throttle blasts we did wish for a bit more performance. While it can’t be described as “slow” the Mazda 6 didn’t provide the sort of mid- to high-rpm crescendo we relish in competitive models that offer an optional turbo or V6 engine. We suspect a turbo engine is on the way in the next year or two, but in the meantime the 2.5-liter engine (or the forthcoming 2.2-liter diesel) will have to suffice. And for most buyers in this category either of those engines will.
Buyers can liven up the Mazda 6’s driving experience by opting for the 6-speed manual transmission. The manual is offered on either the base “Sport” or mid-grade “Touring” trims, and it allows for quick access to the engine’s broad torque band. This tranny, in conjunction with the Mazda 6’s fast steering ratio and limited body roll, allows for spirited driving and confident handling when a driver wants to take the scenic route. The automatic is similarly responsive, with standard paddle shifters on the top trim level that take full advantage of its dual-clutch technology, but it doesn’t offer the driver engagement you get from the manual. Keep in mind the manual takes a 1-mpg hit in fuel efficiency ratings (26/37/29).
One item worth noting relates to the Mazda 6’s steering feel. Mazda designed the front suspension to produce a high level of castor trail, which essentially means the front wheels want to stay pointed straight. This is good for stability and it increases steering feel/feedback when you turn the wheels off-center, but it also makes the steering heavier than the average family sedan. We didn’t find this unpleasant, but we would suggest potential buyers pay attention during their test drive to ensure the steering’s weighting doesn’t bother them.
Interior Design and Function
Sporting some of the most comfortably supportive seats in the category, the 2014 Mazda 6 earns high marks for keeping the driver comfortable for the daily grind yet contained when lateral g-forces climb. The base model uses cloth seat covers, but higher-grade versions offer either leatherette (faux leather) or genuine leather seats. Regardless of material we found ourselves with plenty of legroom and excellent support from neck to knee (in both the front and rear seats).
We did notice slightly compromised space around our heads, both front and rear, due to the Mazda 6’s compact greenhouse and sloping/fastback rear window design. These design elements certainly add to the 6’s sporty appearance, but they also reduce headroom. Most adults will fit fine, but long-of-torso folks should pay close attention to headroom to ensure it’s not an issue.
The supportive driver’s seat combines with a thick steering wheel to inspire sporty driving, while the shifter (whether automatic or manual) is an easy reach. You can initiate gear swaps from the automatic transmission with the shifter or the aforementioned steering-wheel-mounted paddles on top trim models. The paddles are fingertip close, which means no need to take your hands off the wheel (though some prefer their paddles hard mounted on the steering column to keep the paddles’ position constant).
With the seats and primary controls in solid order we were left to consider secondary issues, like interior materials, feature content and build quality. In each of these areas the 2014 Mazda 6 is adequate, not benchmark setting. A clear example is the central touchscreen display. Competitive vehicles offer up to an 8.4-inch screen, but the Mazda’s is a diminutive 5.8-inches (though it does come standard on every trim above the base model). Similarly, the circular three-pod gauge cluster is an attractive design. However, the Multi Information Display (MID) in the right pod is only two color (black and white) even on the top trim level, instead of the multicolor designs offered by competitors. And only the driver’s window is one-touch up and down (again, even at the top trim level). These issues likely won’t be deal-breakers for many customers, and certainly not for dedicated Mazda fans.
The same could be said of the Mazda 6’s interior material quality. The dash, for instance, isn’t covered in hard plastic, but it’s not really a soft touch material, either. “Rubbery” would best describe it. The cloth material covering the seats in the base model actually looked and felt quite good, however the leather on the top-line Grand Touring models, both on the seats and the armrests, didn’t have the supple texture we’ve experienced in other family sedans. If you’re a buyer who focuses on these issues over, say, entertaining driving dynamics you’ll probably be happier in something else.
Primary Features and Options
The 2014 Mazda 6 offers an impressive level of standard equipment for each of its three trim levels. The base “Sport” model starts at $20,880 and comes with the 2.5-liter engine attached to a 6-speed manual transmission. It also includes push-button engine start, cloth seats with effective side bolstering, a tilt-and-telescopic steering wheel with audio and cruise control buttons, 17-inch alloy wheels and USB/auxiliary audio ports. Adding the 6-speed, dual-clutch automatic to the Sport raises the price to $22,495, but also adds Bluetooth connectivity, the 5.8-inch color display with touchscreen control, a rearview camera and HD radio.
The mid-level Mazda 6 is dubbed “Touring” and adds to the Sport with leatherette seat material, 19-inch alloy wheels, blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alert, dual-zone climate control, rear seat vents in the center console, a 6-way power drivers seat and a sliding center armrest for $24,495. This makes the Touring trim a solid value in the family sedan category, though a $2,000 “Touring Technology Package” adds navigation, an 11-speaker Bose audio system, keyless entry, Smart City Brake Support (it will stop the car automatically if it detects an obstruction when traveling below 19 mph), automatic headlights, rain-sensing wipers, Homelink, an auto-dimming driver’s mirror and heated side mirrors.
The top-line “Grand Touring” model is priced at $29,495 and includes all the features from the Touring trim and the Touring Technology Package, plus leather seats, a power moonroof, bi-xenon headlights with auto leveling, LED daytime running lights, adaptive front lighting (the headlights will swivel to see around corners), halogen fog lights, an 8-way power driver’s seat, heated front seats, driver’s seat memory, a 4-way power passenger seat, satellite radio, paddle shifters on the steering wheel, a unique wheel finish for the 19-inch alloys and an integrated rear trunk spoiler.
On Grand Touring models an additional $900 gets the “MRCC+FOW Package” with Mazda Radar Cruise Control and Forward Obstruction Warning (which will alert the driver when it senses a stationary obstacle in the vehicle’s path). In the second half of 2013 an “Advanced Package” will be offered that includes lane departure warning, automatic high beams and i-ELOOP technology (it uses brake energy and a capacitor to power electric components, further increasing fuel efficiency). Pricing for that package hasn’t been announced.
Note that none of these prices include Mazda’s $795 destination charge ($840 in Alaska).
It’s Perfect For…
The 2014 Mazda 6 evolves Mazda’s midsize sedan in several key areas. It’s now among the most fuel-efficient models available, and it offers arguably the most attractive exterior shape in the category. It also retains Mazda’s trademark driving dynamics, making it a great choice for enthusiast drivers with real-world (read: family toting) needs. The diesel engine due in the second half of 2013 will provide even better fuel efficiency, though a more performance-oriented turbo engine would enhance the 6’s performance aspirations (we suspect one is coming, though Mazda won’t confirm it). Until then, buyers seeking an engaging, fuel-efficient and stylish family sedan should give the new 2014 Mazda 6 a close look.
Vehicle Tested: 2014 Mazda 6
Base MSRP of Test Vehicle: $29,465
Options on Test Vehicle: Soul Red Paint Charge ($300), MRCC and FOW Package (includes Mazda Radar Cruise Control and Forward Obstruction Warning technology -- $900), destination charge ($795)
MSRP of Test Vehicle (including destination charge): $31,490
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The manufacturer provided Total Car Score this vehicle for the purposes of evaluation.
Photos courtesy of Mazda North America